Wednesday, November 26, 2003
High Fructose Corn Syrup: Danger of Current Era
By ROGER M. GRACE
The corn people are upset about my column knocking high fructose corn syrup, commonly found these days in soft drinks. It’s pretty much replaced sugar, being sweeter and cheaper.
Here’s the protest sent by Curt Mercadante, director of communications of the Corn Refiners Association, Inc.:
Roger Grace’s November 6 [“Reminiscing”] piece, “Caution: Lemonade Can Be Hazardous to Your Health,” contained numerous factual errors regarding high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a corn-based sweetener found in many foods we consume each day.
First, Mr. Grace implies that HFCS is somehow vastly different from sugar. He also writes that HFCS is “controversial because, as the name indicates, it contains fructose.” In truth, both HFCS and sugar are made up of almost a 50/50 blend of fructose and glucose. Both products are also only 4 calories per gram and about equally as sweet. As such, there is no evidence to suggest the dietary impact of consuming HFCS is any different than the dietary impact of consuming sugar.
Furthermore, Dr. Andrew Weil is quoted by Mr. Grace as saying, “HFCS contains 14 percent fructose.” That assertion is false. As stated earlier, HFCS is made up of almost a 50/50 blend of fructose and glucose. More specifically, HFCS is either 42% or 55% fructose and 42-52% glucose, depending on the food product in which HFCS is being used.
Mr. Grace also refers to some studies regarding the effects of fructose on the human body. While several questions can be raised about the scientific validity of those studies, it is vital to remember that HFCS and pure fructose are not the same product. As such, it is scientifically inaccurate to apply results of studies on pure fructose to HFCS....
In essence, Mercadante is saying that ordinary sugar (sucrose) contains fructose, so don’t bad-mouth HFCS simply because it, too, has fructose in it. He might be oversimplifying it.
Sucrose, a natural substance derived from beets or sugar cane, is comprised of bonded molecules of glucose and fructose. HFCS is not natural. It’s manufactured from cornstarch, using a process developed in Japan in 1971. HFCS is made up of glucose and frucose molecules, unlinked.
Why does it matter whether the molecules are wedded or not? Darned if I know. It’s just that HFCS has been linked to certain health concerns and, according to food editor Phil Lempert in his Sept. 23 report on the “Today Show,” sucrose has simply “not been found to cause the same problems.”
This information is provided on the website of Manchester College in Indiana:
“High fructose corn syrup contains what are called ‘free’ or unbound fructose molecules. These molecules have been found to interfere with normal heart functioning, among other things. A recent study performed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that high fructose diets shortened the life span of laboratory mice from the normal two years to an astounding five weeks. One study performed with human subjects was inadvertently stopped short of completion as some of the subjects developed abnormal heart conditions.”
The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 27 reported:
“Irritable bowel syndrome—a condition that causes abdominal discomfort, bloating and constipation or diarrhea in about 10% to 15% of Americans—may be triggered by fructose in some people, conclude University of Iowa researchers. In a study involving 80 people with IBS, the researchers found that 31 were fructose intolerant.”
The University of Iowa said in a press release: “Anything with high fructose corn syrup, a prevalent ingredient in commercially prepared food in the Western diet, can cause problems for people with IBS or fructose intolerance.”
A Washington Post article on March 11 pointed to concerns about fructose, citing two studies published in 2000. A USDA study suggested that fructose may mess up the magnesium balance in the body, spurring bone loss. At the University of Minnesota, it was found that in men, fructose produced “significantly higher levels” of trigylcerides in the blood than glucose does and that “diets high in added fructose may be undesirable, particularly for men.”
Dr. Robert C. Adkins, father of the Adkins diet, has warned on his website of the dangers of HFCS. Pointing to the University of Minnesota study, he explained:
“Triglyceride goes into the bloodstream and makes our cells resistant to insulin. And insulin resistance…is the fast road to fatigue, malaise, diabetes and, of course, obesity….”
He went on to comment:
“University of London researcher P.A. Mayes believes that high fructose consumption causes the liver to release an enzyme called PDH that instructs the body to burn sugar instead of fat. If true, then a high-fructose diet—and the average American consumes 9 percent of his or her daily calories in the form of fructose—is a major metabolic factor in favor of weight gain….Considering the health implications of obesity, it seems like a clear-cut choice: Avoid high-fructose corn syrup.”
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company
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